UCI Track Cycling World Championships 2016: Brits to watch

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UCI Track Cycling World Championships 2016 preview: Brits to watch

Who to look out for in London, and who they are likely to be up against

Britain’s finest track stars return to competitive action on the London boards this week, for the 2016 UCI Track Cycling World Championships from March 2 to March 6.

The biggest track cycling event in the capital since the London 2012 Olympic Games will serve as a pre-cursor to Rio 2016, but also offer the Brits the chance to get the gold rush flowing again after missing out 12 months ago.

Bradley Wiggins is among the stars flying the British flag at the 2016 UCI Track Cycling World Championships

A major target in their own right, of course, alongside a form finder for the Olympics, Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish are among the men in action for Great Britain.

But who else will be flying the flag for Great Britain, and who will they be up against at the Lee Valley VeloPark?

We’ve picked out the men and women to keep a close eye on as the action unfolds this week.

Madison (Mark Cavendish and Sir Bradley Wiggins)

The last time Great Britain hosted the World Championships, in 2008 in Manchester, Mark Cavendish and Sir Bradley Wiggins won gold in the Madison.

After subsequently missing out at the Olympics – though Wiggins won team and individual pursuit medals – the two men have made their name on the road instead.

Wiggins and Mark Cavendish will pair up for the Madison (pic: Michael Poole)

Now, however, Britain’s most successful ever professional cyclist and the country’s first Tour de France champion will reunite in London.

At the Revolution Series in Derby at the end of last year, the two combined to win the Madison and their bid to repeat their 2008 triumph will close the Championships.

They will not have it easy though, with defending champions France looking strong and already picking up a World Cup win.

Team Raleigh-GAC rider Morgan Kneisky won gold with Europcar’s Bryan Coquard last time out, but in Coquard’s absence it will be Benjamin Thomas who partners him.

Team Sky’s Elia Viviani and Italy team-mate Alex Buttazoni took silver last time out, meanwhile, and European champions Spain will also provide stiff competition – Sebastian Mora and Albert Torres their winners in Grenchen.

When to watch: Sunday March 6, Finals – afternoon session

Men’s team pursuit

Wiggins will not just be in Madison action, of course, with the UCI Hour Record holder’s return to the track centred on his bid for team pursuit gold at the Olympics.

In France 12 months ago, Olympic champion Ed Clancy and Steven Burke joined Owain Doull and Andy Tennant to take silver – New Zealand beating the Brits in the final.

Great Britain’s team pursuit squad hope to lay down a marker for Rio (pic: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

And Clancy’s return from injury in the winter has provided a big boost on the eve of the event with he and Wiggins veterans of Britain’s gold medal in Manchester, the last time the Championships came to England.

Great Britain have not taken gold in the team pursuit since their victory in Melbourne in 2012, which set the tone for the World Record-breaking Olympic win later in the year.

Interview: Andy Tennant motivated and ready for London return

Australia triumphed in 2013 and 2014, before New Zealand’s victory last time out, and it is their Antipodean rivals who look set to be Britain’s biggest threat to gold.

But the Brits have taken gold in both of the last two Olympic years, and look rejuvenated thanks to Wiggins’ return and Heiko Salzwedel’s coaching – victory here, as Tennant told us, would be a big statement ahead of Rio.

Pro cyclist interview: Ed Clancy on Sir Bradley Wiggins, world championship silver and building to Rio

When to watch: Wednesday March 2, qualification – 1pm; Thursday March 3, round 1 – afternoon session; Finals – evening session

Women’s team pursuit

The women’s team pursuit was new to the World Championships the last time they were in Great Britain, with Joanna Rowsell, Rebecca Romero and Wendy Houvenaghel taking gold in Manchester.

And the Brits have been in the podium in all eight editions, winning six gold medals and two silvers – with Rowsell still a key member of the team now.

Laura Trott and Elinor Barker will be hoping for more rainbow bands (pic: Alex Broadway/SWpix.com)

The event has since, of course, become a four-rider, 4km event – the same as the men’s – but, after taking the switch in their stride, the Brits were beaten by world record holders Australia last time out.

Now, they out to reclaim the top step of the podium, and prove they are the favourites ahead of the Olympic Games.

Injury to Katie Archibald means the quartet will come from Rowsell, Laura Trott, Elinor Barker, Emily Nelson and Ciara Horne.

Alongside the Aussies, Canada will be among their rivals having taken two victories at this winter’s three UCI Track World Cup meets.

When to watch: Thursday March 3, qualification – 1pm; Friday March 4, round 1 (from) 2.30pm; Finals – (from) 7pm

Men’s omnium (Mark Cavendish)

For Mark Cavendish to compete at the men’s omnium in Rio, he needs to finish in the top three in the event in London according to Shane Sutton.

And to do so, he will need to go one better than he did at the final round of the UCI Track World Cup in Hong Kong.

Mark Cavendish needs a top-three finish to book himself a spot at the Olympic Games (pic: Michael Poole)

Fourth on that occasion, Cavendish has since gone on to win the Tour of Qatar – his first win on the road for his new team, Team Dimension Data.

But he faces stiff competition in London, not least from some of his traditional rivals on the road.

Team Sky’s Italian Elia Viviani is the European champion and took bronze in 2015, while Cavendish’s former Etixx-QuickStep team-mate Fernando Gaviria (Colombia) is the defending world champion.

Mark Cavendish targets triple success in action-packed 2016

Former Cannondale-Garmin rider Lasse Norman Hansen is another to watch, the Dane have finished on the podium at two World Cups and the European Championships in the winter.

Cavendish has ambitiously targeted a yellow jersey at the Tour de France, an Olympic gold and a World Championship win this season.

If he hopes to achieve that hat-trick, he needs a performance in London.

When to watch: Friday March 4 to Saturday March 5 – one event in each of the six sessions across the two days

Women’s omnium (Laura Trott)

A two-time Olympic gold medallist at London 2012, Laura Trott returns to the Lee Valley VeloPark with ambitions of another double success.

Alongside the team pursuit, Trott will also ride the women’s omnium – bidding to go one better than the three silver medals she has from the last three Track Worlds.

Laura Trott won two gold medals in London in 2012, and will hope for similar success this time out (pic: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

Annette Edmondson (Australia) beat Trott last time out, while Sarah Hammer (USA) won in 2013 and 2014.

Last year, in fact, was the first time since the last Olympics that the final podium wasn’t made up of those three, with Edmondson and Trott joined by third-placed Dutch ace Kirsten Wild in France.

Trott set up her stunning 2012 with victory in both the team pursuit and omnium at the World Championships, though, and with a willing crowd behind her will hope to do exactly that again four years on.

When to watch: Saturday March 5 to Sunday March 6 – one event in each of the three sessions on Saturday, two on Sunday morning and one on Sunday afternoon.

Men’s team sprint

Britain’s sprint squads have faltered in recent years, seemingly unable to replace Olympic heroes Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton.

But the men turned a corner during the winter, winning the final UCI Track World Cup event in Hong Kong to top the overall standings.

Matt Crampton, Jason Kenny and their team sprint team-mates recaptured their form over the winter (pic: Michael Poole)

After a lean period it was proof the men were finally starting to show form ahead of London – with the depth in their four-man squad emphasised when they swapped Matt Crampton for Callum Skinner for the final.

Olympic champions Jason Kenny and Philip Hindes complete the line-up, and the Worlds will be an interesting marker of the progress they have made.

Defending champions France’s form seem to have gone the opposite way, despite the presence of Francois Pervis, but Germany remain strong and look favourites for gold.

Poland were the team Britain beat in Hong Kong meanwhile, and could be dark horses in London.

When to watch: Wednesday March 2, qualification – afternoon session; Finals – evening session

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